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Sensing space and making place: the hospital and therapeutic landscapes in two cancer narratives
  1. Victoria Bates
  1. Department of History, Bristol University, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Victoria Bates, Department of History, Bristol University, Bristol BS8 1TB, UK; victoria.bates{at}


This article explores the role of senses in the construction and experience of place, focusing on patients’ experiences of hospital care. It compares two cancer narratives for their insights into the heterogeneous ways that hospital environments are made into therapeutic landscapes, arguing that they are a product of dynamic processes rather than something that is simply built. The article draws on a relational model of space and place, alongside literary analysis, to explore the making of un/healthy environments in embodied, affective and sensory terms. It indicates that sensory experiences in hospitals are made (un)therapeutic in relation to illness and recovery, as well as a range of social and human/non-human relations. These conclusions warn against making broad claims about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ hospital sensescapes, or against treating the hospital as a homogeneous space. They also offer new opportunities for medical geography and the medical humanities, by showing how illness and recovery are part of the relational making of space and place.

  • built environment
  • cancer care
  • patient narratives

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  • Contributors I am the sole author of this article and have permission from Matilda Tristram to use the images.

  • Funding University of Bristol Strategic Research Fund.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.